Recently, I was on a four-day speaking tour in the northwestern part of the United States. During the conferences, I had the pleasure of sharing the podium with meteorologist, Eric Snodgrass of University of Illinois. We both discussed trends and forecasts, but of course, he covered weather while I covered economics and finance. The conference participants included producers, agribusiness professionals and agricultural lenders. As a special treat, we also had students attend from Brigham Young University, University of Idaho, Oregon State University, and Washington State University.
These young conference participants were engaged, attentive and refreshingly mature. After our sessions, Eric and I asked them to prepare a summary of ten points from the material we presented. I must say that I was impressed by their ability to step up to the challenge. Within the next 48 hours, most of the students had not only completed the task, but has also delivered a well-composed summary.
Next, we asked the students to serve as moderators of written questions from the audience. Again, they handled this task competently, asking direct and pointed questions that often involved controversial topics such as, global warming and GMO issues. In addition, these students were clearly not in attendance simply to get out of attending regular classes. We observed their incorporations of various points from their college courses, from our presentations as well as from interactions with the rest of the conference audiences. In fact, the following are some of the points highlighted by these bright students:
- Future weather will have longer dry periods followed by intense short term rainfall.
- La Niña will not be very strong in the coming year.
- International trade is critical for United States agriculture.
- There are markets for GMO, natural and organic products.
- More money will be made behind the desk or on the computer, however, everyday production and management is still the front lines of the business.
- There are many job opportunities in agriculture including owning your own business.
- Oil and energy prices are moderating and expected to provide some relief in costs for producers.
- Both domestically and internationally, internships can be the way to gain a competitive edge in the job market.
- 80 percent of a business plan is developing a projected cash flow.
- Producers will be able to develop their own weather forecast within the next two to three years.
This list includes several significant points from my presentations, from those of Eric Snodgrass as well as from other sources. With these young people as a predictor, I am encouraged and excited about the future of agriculture, and in general, about the upcoming work force of the Millennial generation. Especially when combined with technology and the more experienced individuals in the industry, this young generation has much to offer agriculture. Welcome to the Millennials.